Yesterday afternoon, I walked my daughter down the aisle of her future husband’s church. She is my youngest child, the last one to leave the nest. I slowed the walk, partly to take care not to step on her wedding dress, which was as white as new fallen snow, but could not possibly be as clean and new as my daughter’s young heart. The slow walk allowed her to enjoy the moment a bit longer, and a church filled with people who love her smiled at her, stole photographs, and offered joyful praise as she passed near to them.
The pastor asked me a simple question, “Who gives this woman to marry this man?” I knew what I was supposed to say. I was supposed to say that I will let go of one of the most precious people in my life. Her future husband is a Christian. He loves my daughter dearly and has promised me that he will take care of her. All of his family and his church have already welcomed my daughter into their lives. I should smile broadly, say what I was supposed to say and let the happy event happen. Yet, in that moment, I was compelled to see my daughter as a woman, not as my little girl. My wife experienced that moment on the previous day.
Our home was filled with out-of-town guests. Everyone snatched a chance to say something to my daughter while she was there. Mostly, I entertained the men, both old and young, while the women, old and young, showered my daughter with love. Suddenly, I heard my wife cry. She had been only happy the entire time that she prepared for this wedding, and make no mistake, it was my wife that arranged everything. My job was to pay the bills, not get upset about how great those bills were, and not to meddle in the details. Until I heard her cry, I did not realize the emotional burden that my wife carried.
“My daughter walked out my front door,” my wife cried to me, “and she will never come back as my little girl!” A bachelorette party was being given for my daughter that night by her girl cousins and friends. She would sleep over with them and go straight to the place where the reception would be held after the wedding. That was where my wife and other women would help her and the young women of her wedding party get their hair fixed and to dress. That was where we would have the after wedding celebration reception of her dreams at the plantation house of the Planter’s Peanut founder. She had come from that place, and walked the aisle with me to where I was asked a question.
“Her Mother and I,” slipped from my mouth. I said it strongly, and I did have a smile on my face. I kissed my daughter on the cheek, placed her arm on her young man’s arm. I whispered to him, “Take care of her as well as I have done.”